FIRST ON 3: Lewis to recommend Muscogee schools keep law firm - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Text Description

FIRST ON 3: Lewis to recommend Muscogee schools keep law firm

Posted: Updated: Feb 13, 2014 08:22 AM
COLUMBUS, Ga. - FIRST ON WRBL NEWS 3: Muscogee schools superintendent David Lewis will recommend his district continues a six decade old relationship with the Hatcher-Stubbs law firm, documents obtained exclusively by WRBL News 3 explain.

As WRBL News 3 reported Tuesday, Muscoguee County School District Superintendent Lewis had private research firm Hanover Research prepare a report to assist him with his recommendation process. The 20-page report will be presented by Lewis to the Board of Education Tuesday, the same night Lewis is expected to give his official recommendation on continuing the law firm's agreement. Although Lewis would not speak to WRBL News 3 about what his plans, an e-mail sent by Lewis to school board members - and obtained by WRBL News 3 - states Lewis plans to recommend keeping Hatcher-Stubbs as the district's legal counsel:

"Therefore, given the results of the independent research and evaluation provided by Hanover Research, the historical institutional knowledge Hatcher-Stubbs possesses, the fact that their hourly rate of billing is within or less than the range identified in the evaluation for districts of similar size with no increase since 2005, and the proven track record of success that most recently resulted in the district prevailing in a case dating back to the early 1980’s that represents an approximate cost avoidance of $5 million dollars, I will be recommending that Hatcher-Stubbs serve as the district’s legal counsel at next week’s Board Meeting."

Web Extra: Lewis' complete e-mail (PDF document)

A News 3 investigation revealed the Muscogee County School District spent $700,000 on legal fees in 2012. The school district has exclusively used Hatcher-Stubbs for more than 60 years. Some - including Georgia State Senator Josh McKoon and local political consultant Frank Myers - have called for the district to use an open-bidding process or in-house legal counsel as an alternative to the exclusive agreement. The open-bidding process would allow the district to consider pricing from competing law firms.

"I think it shows a shocking lack of public transparency," said McKoon, who claims the school district overpays for legal services. In the coming weeks, McKoon is expected to present a new bill prohibiting no-bid legal deals for school districts statewide.

Members of the school board who support the law firm said legal counsel is about more than just money. Board chairman Rob Varner said there is a level of comfort with Hatcher-Stubbs.

"Legal services, professional services, they're similar to what many of us experience when we go to a physician. You develop comfort, you know their education, you know their background, their experience -- in this case with Hatcher-Stubbs we know all of that about them," Varner said during an interview with WRBL News 3 in November.

Myers said he is disappointed with Lewis' planned recommendation, but not surprised:

"Now all of a sudden the attention shifts from Mr. Lewis to the school board members because Mr. Lewis doesn't get a vote," Myers said. "He gets a recommendation and we are now beginning an election year [where] you have 5 seats on the board that are coming up this year."

Lewis declined an interview with WRBL News 3 regarding the Hanover Research report but the district's Communication Director Valerie Fuller issued a statement:

"The Hanover Report will be posted as an agenda item in the interest of full transparency to the public, but there will be no interviews or discussion prior to the Board meeting as it would be inappropriate to do so prior to the Board's review."

During a board meeting in October, members voted to approve a three year, $90,000 contract with Hanover Research. The school district explained services from Hanover Research are utilized in lieu of filling a research and evaluation position in the school district.

Hanover Research explained their research for the recent legal counsel research was obtained through phone interviews with three experts. While the names of those interviewed were not released, the company said the three have a strong understanding of district practices in both Georgia and Alabama. Additionally, paper surveys were sent to 200 schools nationwide. For those filings, 26 surveys were reported. Myers said he has concerns about how the company obtained their data.

“It's pretty clear that the report was put together for the purpose of giving the superintendent cover to do pretty much whatever he wanted to do," Myers said. "You could take that report and go either way with it. I don't think it's a thorough report."

Muscogee County schools Board of Education member Cathy Williams told WRBL News 3 she too has concerns about the thoroughness of the report. Williams declined to speak to WRBL News 3 further explaining she first wanted to take her concerns to the superintendent.

Lewis' planned recommendation and the board's expected vote are anticipated during the January 21 meeting, which begins at 6p et.

Additional documents:
WRBL News 3's James Brierton contributed to this report

Nominate a story idea to be investigated

  • It's Your Money: Story Idea Submission

    Submit your story ideas for our next "It's Your Money" segment.

    * denotes required fields
    We're sorry, but only one entry is allowed per person.
    Thank you for your continued interest.

    Thank you for your submission. WRBL News 3 will review your idea and may get back to your with additional questions.

David Hurst

David Hurst, a graduate of the Univ. of Georgia, focuses on how your tax dollars are being spent.
More>>

James Brierton

James joined WRBL News 3 with experience from CNN, NBC News and his own hyper-local news site. He manages the WRBL News 3 Web desk. More>>

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • FIRST ON 3: Police looking for man after Columbus mom, baby found dead after house fire

    FIRST ON 3: Police looking for man after Columbus mom, baby found dead after house fire

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 5:12 PM EDT2014-08-26 21:12:09 GMT
    Police are searching for suspect Brandon Connor. Before the fire, Rosella Mitchell is believed to have suffered from life threatening stabbing wounds.Police are searching for suspect Brandon Connor. Before the fire, Rosella Mitchell is believed to have suffered from life threatening stabbing wounds.
    Police are searching for Brandon Conner, 35, who is wanted for murder.
    Police are searching for Brandon Conner, 35, who is wanted for murder.
  • Murder suspect turns himself in after Columbus mom, baby found dead in house fire

    Murder suspect turns himself in after Columbus mom, baby found dead in house fire

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 11:37 PM EDT2014-08-27 03:37:59 GMT
    The man suspected of killing a Columbus mother and baby found after a house fire last week has turned himself in to police, his attorney tells News 3.Defense Attorney Mark Shelnutt tells News 3 that Brandon Conner, 35, turned himself in late Tuesday night after police named him a suspect in the death of Rosella Mitchell and her 6-month-old son Dylan Conner.Remains believed to be that of Mitchell and her 6-month-old son were found after a house fire at 1324 Winifred Lane last Thursday. Mitchel...
    The man suspected of killing a Columbus mother and baby found after a house fire last week has turned himself in to police, his attorney tells News 3.Defense Attorney Mark Shelnutt tells News 3 that Brandon Conner, 35, turned himself in late Tuesday night after police named him a suspect in the death of Rosella Mitchell and her 6-month-old son Dylan Conner.Remains believed to be that of Mitchell and her 6-month-old son were found after a house fire at 1324 Winifred Lane last Thursday. Mitchel...
  • Meriwether County man murdered during apparent robbery

    Meriwether County man murdered during apparent robbery

    Monday, August 25 2014 4:41 PM EDT2014-08-25 20:41:56 GMT
    Two individuals believed to be connected with a Meriwether County murder were caught on surveillance camera in Newnan.Two individuals believed to be connected with a Meriwether County murder were caught on surveillance camera in Newnan.
    Local and state investigators release surveillance images of suspects believed to be connected with a Meriwether County murder investigation.
    Local and state investigators release surveillance images of suspects believed to be connected with a Meriwether County murder investigation.
  • Would you like to see Muscogee schools continue its relationship with the Hatcher-Stubbs law firm?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes
    19%
    15 votes
    No
    81%
    63 votes
  • FIRST ON 3: Lewis to recommend Muscogee schools keep law firm
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Effingham County Siblings Arrested, Charged with Incest

    Effingham County Siblings Arrested, Charged with Incest

    The sheriff's office says they two were caught in semi-truck in a parking lot across for Effingham High School on Tuesday. 
    The sheriff's office says they two were caught in semi-truck in a parking lot across for Effingham High School on Tuesday. 
  • UPDATE: NC adult party 'mansion' owner convicted in tax fraud scheme

    UPDATE: NC adult party 'mansion' owner convicted in tax fraud scheme

    Wednesday, June 19 2013 7:29 PM EDT2013-06-19 23:29:02 GMT
    Residents of a North Raleigh neighborhood say they fear leaving their homes because a neighbor uses her "Mansion" as an "adult, for-profit club." A Wake County Superior Court judge issued a restraining
    Residents of a North Raleigh neighborhood say they fear leaving their homes because a neighbor uses her "Mansion" as an "adult, for-profit club." A Wake County Superior Court judge issued a restraining
  • 4 college students killed in Ohio plane crash

    4 college students killed in Ohio plane crash

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 2:19 PM EDT2014-08-26 18:19:30 GMT
    School officials say the three passengers killed in a fiery plane crashing Ohio were members of the varsity wrestling team for Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
    School officials say the three passengers killed in a fiery plane crashing Ohio were members of the varsity wrestling team for Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
  • It's Your MoneyMore>>

  • Georgia Transportation group learns from Columbus TSPLOST

    Georgia Transportation group learns from Columbus TSPLOST

    Monday, August 18 2014 6:30 PM EDT2014-08-18 22:30:55 GMT
    List of all eight TSPLOST projectsList of all eight TSPLOST projects
    The Georgia Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding came to Columbus Monday to learnhow local tax dollars are being used. The group is made up of 13 state legislators and transportation gurus, and their main goal is to find out how best to save the state money while also improving mobility. Columbus is the second stop on the committee's tour of the state.The focus of the meeting was how the TSPLOSTpenny-tax is funneling $300 million intothe city's infrastructur...
    The Georgia Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding came to Columbus Monday to learnhow local tax dollars are being used. The group is made up of 13 state legislators and transportation gurus, and their main goal is to find out how best to save the state money while also improving mobility. Columbus is the second stop on the committee's tour of the state.The focus of the meeting was how the TSPLOSTpenny-tax is funneling $300 million intothe city's infrastructur...
  • Crude prices fall

    Crude prices fall

    Tuesday, December 10 2013 7:22 AM EST2013-12-10 12:22:00 GMT
    The cost for a barrel of oil fell last week for the sixth week in a row and remains below $95 a barrel. Although crude prices moved lower, retail gas prices remained relatively flat from the week prior.
    The cost for a barrel of oil fell last week for the sixth week in a row.
  • Social Security benefits to go up next year

    Social Security benefits to go up next year

    Thursday, November 21 2013 9:15 AM EST2013-11-21 14:15:00 GMT
    Social Security benefits for nearly 58 million people will increase by 1.5 percent next year. The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a government measure of inflation that was released
    Social Security benefits for nearly 58 million people will increase by 1.5 percent next year. The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a government measure of inflation that was released
Powered by WorldNow

1430 East Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404

Telephone: 912.651.0300
Fax: 912.651.0320
Email: newsemailalert@wsav.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.